Friday, February 12, 2016

Fest Companion: THE WEEKEND MIX

Mardi Gras is over. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is a little over two months away. From 1999 until 2011, I had only missed one festival. This was a very important time for me, as the city of New Orleans was and still is in many ways, very important to me. Of course, there are the obvious reasons- music, food, warm weather, etc. But it was really one thing above all. The people.

The people of New Orleans somehow managed to calm me down. I didn't move as fast. I was more patient. I smiled more often.  It wouldn't be wrong to attribute all of that to simply being on vacation, except the key to it all was never feeling like I was on vacation. I felt at home, even if I had only been visiting four times a year. The picture you see up top, is where you would find me most of the time. It wasn't just about the Festival. Sitting one short story above the corner of Royal & St. Philip, I would take a seat and just watch and listen. It was entertaining, yet very peaceful. I miss that balcony and I miss the city.

I don't go to New Orleans as often as I used to for a number of reasons, but it is the Festival itself that no longer that has that allure. Yes, many of the legendary performers from the city have passed on. There is nothing we can do about that. But seeing some headlining names such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Nick Jonas and Julio Iglesias, makes me feel like it's about something else these days.

I would compile a CD each year featuring artists performing at the Fest, mixed with artists and songs that just felt right for the mix. I called it the Fest Companion and I would mail it out to the small group of friends that would be taking the trip each year. I believe most of them loved getting the mail and the music. By the third or fourth Fest Companion, I'd receive calls and e-mails wondering when the new edition would be arriving. It was an amazing time.

I randomly pulled out "FC 2010" the other day and gave it a spin. I enjoyed it so much, I decided to share it with you.

Some highlights:

The opening track, "Duck Feathers," is actually a 15 minute live track featuring "Big Chief" Donald Harrison Jr. on sax, Charles Fambrough on bass and the amazing Ricky Sebastian on drums. I could listen to just Ricky's intro for the full 15 minutes, but for the mix, I edited the track down. (I'm sorry, but I don't recall who is on guitar and keyboards.)

New Orleans has no shortage of amazing drummers and one of my personal faves is Herlin Riley. You will hear his quintet on "Soscalalah Blues."

As you might have read on these pages, my friend Stanton Moore is probably my favorite living drummer and you can hear him in the pocket as he takes a guest spot with the Forgotten Souls on "Lady Be Good."

Another friend is Maurice Brown. Born and raised in Chicago, Mo was the king of jazz in New Orleans for a too short period of time, holding residency on Frenchmen Street at Snug Harbor with a Tuesday night slot. Some of the hottest and freshest music I had ever heard came from Brown's trumpet and ensembles. Whether playing it straight with his quintet or funkin' it up with the larger group Soul'd U Out, Maurice had taken New Orleans by storm. And then sadly, the storm took it all back. My friend is now a New Yorker and has done very well for himself, touring with Tedeschi-Trucks, and becoming an in demand producer, while still composing and releasing his own music. The track here is a Maurice Brown original called "Lovely," and it is one of the most beautiful pieces of music you will ever hear.

Thousands of people brave the elements when attending Jazz Fest. Rain, wind, thunder, and mud can often be part of the experience. I've done it and I have rarely minded it. This is how I discovered The Bluerunners, dancing in the wind and rain and somehow not caring because the music felt bigger. The Bluerunners are here with "The Gravedigger."

One of my very favorite bands is from Lafayette and here, supergroup Lil' Band O'Gold, featuring the great C.C. Adock, Steve Riley, David Egan and Warren Storm give ELO a Cajun twist with their cover of "Hold On Tight." It's a natural.

Hope you get some pleasure out of this.


Duck Feathers (Edit)- Donald Harrison Jr.
Streetcar-Ray Heindorf
The Gravedigger-The Bluerunners
Don't Knock-The Spiders
It's All Over Now-Dirty Dozen Brass Band with Dr. John
Teardrops-Gene Terry
Your Lips- Olu Dara
Lady Be Good- Forgotten Souls Brass Band
Lovely- Maurice Brown
When Your Hair Has Turned To Silver- Uncle Lionel Batiste
If You Let A Man Kick You Once-Henry Butler & Corey Harris
Soscalalah Blues- Herlin Riley
Trouble In Mind-Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Richie Havens
Dog Hill- The Iguanas
Whisper My Name- Lil Buck
Hold On Tight- Lil' Band O'Gold



buzzbabyjesus said...

Getting music, or anything personal in the mail is always a blast. More real than a link to a file. But then there's the instantaneous convenience of downloading this mix right now and hearing it as soon as I'm done here.


Of course when I think of New Orleans the Red Hot Chili Peppers come immediately to mind.

Anonymous said...

Sal, looks like a great mix to have for the weekend. Olu Dara is a favorite of mine - I've put Your Lips on several mix tapes for people myself. Have you heard of a Papa Mali side project called Jerkuleez? Circa 2002, instrumental stuff that is greasy, sleazy and easy that I discovered on the Home Of The Groove blog many years ago and Dan was kind enough to burn me a copy. Randy

Anonymous said...

Boy do I miss those "Fest" Companions Sal......they were the best!

Troy said...

Thanks for this share. There are a few pieces here that I am not familiar with, but based on your recommendations, I look forward to checking them out. Like you, I had a good long run at JF and I'm sure we were probably there at the same time over the years. I started going in 1991 and went every year (except 3) until 2005. Went back once more in 2008. Loved every minute of it. You're right about the people making a difference. I love the town and the people so much. I've always said it is the place I go to when I need to reset my internal compass and remind myself that I work to live, not live to work.

I agree that the BNAs have changed JF, and not for the better. The thing that has really changed it for me is the cost. I realize that the organizers cannot control how much airfare is or how much a hotel room will cost, but there is a correlation between the big corporate festival atmosphere and the ever increasing crowd sizes. Simple economics kicks in after that and suddenly a 3 day weekend costs over $2,000 for my wife and I. So we stay home, go see NOLA artists when they venture north to Chicago, listen to our brass band, zydeco, cajun, swamp pop, jazz, and rhythm & blues CDs, make up a pot of crawfish etoufee or a shrimp boil from time to time, and endeavor to laissez le bons temp rouler.

Hope this mix helps everyone have a Festive weekend.

Ken D. said...

This ought to warm up my afternoon. Thanks.
Truth is, I've never made it to JF. Sounds like that ship has sailed...


So ... Much ... Fun!

Anonymous said...

great stuff; thank you, as always.

Having been born (late 1950s) and raised in South Louisiana but largely gone since the late 1970s, it has been interesting to watch how all this has evolved. Much has been lost, but a lot is still there in the people, in the music, in the food...and it is deeply gratifying to see how much it has all come to mean to so many others... if at times a little weird, I'm not gonna lie.

y'all pass a good time, ya hear.

A walk in the woods said...

Looking forward to this, as I'm envious of many friends who just got back from Mardi Gras... and I have no plans to go to Jazz Fest this year. It is tempting seeing that Van Morrison, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder are there... they at least are related to he roots music that fest originally celebrated.

dogbreath said...

Many thanks for sharing not only the music but the memories and background to some of the artists and songs. The warm & insightful comments add to my enjoyment - insight to the blind, perhaps? - as I am unparalleled in my ignorance of much of what's in the mix, apart from the Lil' Band O'Gold track which I've loved since you featured it in a mix a while back. Have a good weekend!

Russ Mercado said...

Hi Sal,
here's a blast from the past for you. This is Russ from NYC. I had the stores back in the day Rockin Rags (in Bleecker Bobs) as well as Rockit Rags right next to Smash cds. we had James Muro as a mutual friend. me you and Frankie even jammed a few times as I recall. found you're blog recently and want you to know that I've become a regular reader.
i'm writing because I agree with you on jazz fest. it's become another Bonaroo or Coachella. it's almost like it's owned by live nation. times have surely changed.
just an FYI I now live in NOLA and own the Bywater bar "Bar Redux" check out our facebook page to se what we're up to. next time you're down our way stop on by for a beer. always great to see a New Yorker down here. keep up the good work and get in touch.

Sal Nunziato said...


Great to hear from you. I'm still wearing about a dozen of your shirts.

It wasn't me who jammed with you and Frankie. Possibly Sal Maida, who ironically is in a band with me now. We both worked downstairs. It's easy to mix us up. He's 6'6" and I'm sooo not.

Happy to hear you're in NOLA and will absolutely stop by your place next trip.

Thanks for reading. Stay in touch.

kodak ghost said...

I have all you Festival Mix's on CD and they are regular driving music. Thanks for the introduction to some great stuff. I've been following Stanton Moore for some time - which has been a rewarding experience - and I MUST get the Lil Band of Gold album.

Charlie Carr said...

I went for the music, but like you said - it was the City that won me over. You get it or you don't! The whole package: people, food, architecture, food, cab drivers and, I guess, the food too. What I dug most was how the whole city seem to come alive(r) on the ensuing nights and days between: Frenchman, the free show at Lafayette Square, seeing Big Sam lunching at Café Reconcile, in-store shows at LMF, 'WOZ on dawn until whenever (especially when they have to break Livewire into manageable chunks). You were my tour guide, my NOLA sponsor - then and now. A doorman once regaled me with stories about the good old days at Armstrong Park and catching the Dead at The Warehouse. But, that was his now and this is mine - can't cry about missing out or the way things are now. Better to be late to the party than no party at all! There are many better, more comfortable ways to see live music. But a full-immersion, adult dose into the heart of a city and its people? I don't know of a better deal!
Thanks for the mix too!